I was recently asked to present to the British Beer Writers Guild, with the aim of answering the question, what is the financial impact of beer and food? It's an intriguing question; we often explore the value that beer brings to an outlet, but rarely examine beer and food matching as a concept in the trade.
In writing my presentation, I noted a stat that suggests “consumers are most likely to choose beer [to accompany] their food; with 60% of consumers likely to choose a specific beer style based on the food they’re eating". This insight instantly made me question how do we, as an industry, maximise this opportunity, given the growth of craft beer and with consumers increasingly willing to experiment with flavour. Rather than look at this as a simple beer and food pairing exercise - putting wheat beer with chicken salad and IPA with burgers, to me, maximising the opportunity is more about the overall experience. The two can be combined effortlessly to increase revenues and customer satisfaction.
With so many consumers using social media to share their On-Trade experiences, and discover new places to visit, 'instagrammable' occasions have become social currency. Bad news travels faster than good, so make sure your story is a great one! Think about dishes which are 'shareable' - not in the old-fashioned sense.
Video: The art of 'instagrammable' food
What makes an experience? It starts with the moment a customer walks in and the begin to 'judge'; be that the decor, the menu, the staff approach, the food and even the toilets - it all adds there impression of your outlet. With beer and food, you can take the easy road of using menus to make pairing recommendations for each course (a porter with something chocolatey, is heaven by-the-way), or go all out with a curated beer and food evening, complete with guest chef and brewer presenting a paired set course menu. Whatever you do, do it well - the excellent experience will keep customers coming back.
Menus are an essential tool in maximising sales, menus designed using our 'Menu Engineering' process have led to a 27% increase in sales from the use of adjective descriptors. Using tasting notes and drawing attention to the beer and food match as a value-add offer will increase appeal.
The sense I got, of the thoughts of guild members, was there are some exceptional examples of beer and food pairings out there, we have just scratched the surface of the possible. It's our job now to find them, showcase them, and use them for the betterment of the On-Trade experience. There is a growing desire from consumers to head out, eat tasty dishes, drink good beers and enjoy a sum greater than the individual parts.